By Tony Barthel
The 1970s were an interesting time for the RV world. RV sales were starting to really take off and even the auto industry took note, culminating in GM’s introducing the GMC Motorhome in 1973. Before that, there were a number of concepts by the manufacturers including one design by Ford that included a tent.
The concept Ford Explorer, which was shown at the Chicago Auto Show in 1973, had a tent as part of the design. Therefore, it could be argued that it was a nod to the RV industry. But it was more a return salvo to Dodge for their incredibly popular Dodge Deora concept of 1967.
While the Explorer name had been applied to a Ford vehicle in the past, this was a bigger deal for the brand. The previous use of this was for a version of the F-series pickup trucks.
This Explorer was a combination of a very high-performance vehicle and pickup truck featuring a high-performance version of Ford’s 429-cubic-inch V8. While Ford is pretty quiet about specifics of this model, they did credit this engine as being the Thunderbird variant. This means it likely produced 375 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque. Not bad.
Like the Deora, this was an extreme cab-forward design. The passenger seats essentially sitting on the front wheels and that honking V8 driving the rear wheels. This could be quite the burnout machine, to be sure!
The 1973 Ford Explorer pickup was very stylish
The design of this machine incorporated all the style you could want in 1973, including orange shag carpeting, orange striped bucket seats and huge doors with frameless windows. Of course, there was a four-speaker AM/FM radio, but there is no mention of an 8-track player. Bummer.
The bed is surprisingly roomy, measuring 110.7 inches long by 65 inches wide. This is actually larger than a modern Super Duty truck. But you have to consider that Ford had some experience with this sort of design with their slow-selling Econoline trucks of the 1960s. These trucks, based on the old Ford Falcon platform, also were mid-engine rear-drive trucks with pretty large beds. However, buyers scoffed at these due to their limited towing and cargo carrying capacities stemming from their compact roots.
The tent of the 1973 Ford Explorer is cool
As to the tent portion of the truck, this was a giant poplin “parawing” tent that could spring up from the side. This was kept in a box in the cargo bed when not used and could fold out when it was time to camp. However, this seems almost more of a day shelter than anything based on the photos. Not much mention is made of the design of the tent but it is cool.
While some concept cars remain in the minds of those who have seen them on the show circuit, others just seem to fade into oblivion. The 1973 Explorer is one of those. There isn’t anything I could find on the whereabouts of this RV concept. I can imagine Ford almost would rather have forgotten it by late 1973. That’s when the Arab Oil Embargo got a lot of people to stop thinking about high-performance at all, let alone cars powered by high-performance V8s. While Ford did continue making the Ranchero, the concept Explorer just faded into the history books. Until now.